The MAHS Viking Boat Project
Viking Cargo Boat
by Edward Eisenhuth, Project Advisor
Minersville Area High School, Minersville, PA
This unique hands-on interdisciplinary project got its
start in the Fall of 1995 when one of my eighth grade
students brought in a picture of a Viking ship built by
Danish boy scouts.
After various inquires, we found Arne Emil Christensen
at The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway who was
willing to help. He and the museum supplied us with
plans of an 18 foot boat that was found with the Gokstad
The Gokstad Ship is a part of a Viking Age burial site
that was excavated in 1880 on the coast of the Oslo
Fiord. The ship had been pulled ashore and let down in
a trench. A dead man was placed in a burial chamber built
amidship, presumably with his weapons and clothing.
Equipment for the ship, three small boats, horse trappings
and a sled were placed on board. More than ten horses
were sacrificed and placed in the trench. A large mound
of clay was placed over the trench and ship.
The grave site was robbed before excavation, but all
the wooden objects were of little interest to the robbers.
The blue clay made an excellent seal. All objects were
well preserved. Analaysis of the year-rings of the oak
has shown the ship was built about 895 and buried 10-15
years later. The 18 foot boat with the Gokstad Ship
that we will replicate is believed to be of the same age.
This 18 foot boat was probably an all-purpose boat,
given as extra grave-goods. The boat was capable
of handling the open sea and would have been used
for travel along the coast, fishing and carrying farm
products. Its make-up included a 2-3 man crew with
equipment or 2 men with 200 pounds of cargo in coastal
waters. Building the boat requires a knowledge of
lapstrake or clinker boat building. Most of the wood
was oak, with some pine used for the uppermost strake.
Fastenings are iron rivets clenched over roves in the
planking and treenails in the ribs. The boat originally
had loose thwarts resting on the edge of the top strake,
and floorboards to protect the bottom planking.
Waterproofing was done by placing a tarred string in the
plank overlaps. Pine tar was used as a wood preservative
both inside and out, and there is no proof either way
as to whether the boat was painted. Tools known to have
been used were axes, scrapers, augers, chisels and knives.
In addition to the information supplied by Arne Emil
Christensen and The Viking Ship Museum, we have also been
able to obtain technical support from The National Museum
of Iceland, Gunnar Marel Eggertsson, Rob Stevens and David Christie.
Gunnar Eggertsson is a boat builder from Iceland who has
built a replica of the Gokstad Ship. Rob Stevens is a
boat builder from Maine who built a Viking knarr that
will be used in a recreation of Leif Ericsson's voyage
to North America. David Christie from Pennsylvania is a
hobby boat builder. He has undertaken numerous wooden
boat projects. His latest is a whitehall pulling boat.
All three men have agreed to be advisors for us as we
build our 18 foot boat.
Our goal for this project was to replicate
the 18 foot boat, sail it on a local lake with a crew
of six and donate it to a museum.
The BOAT BUILDING TEAM
THE BOAT TOUR
- A successful formal sailing was held Thursday, September 23, 1999 at 10:00 A.M.
at Locust Lake State Park.
State Capitol in Harrisburg January 18 - February 2, 2000.
Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan May 4 - 7, 2000.
Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. May 19 - 21, 2000.
Mr. M. Joseph Brady, Superintendent and Mr. Ercole Lacianca,
Principal Minersville Area School District
Mr. David Rogers, Human Resources Manager Exxon Chemical Company
Mr. Larry Sparta, Education Relations Director PP&L, Inc.
MS E. Lori Smith, Account Administrator Snayberger Foundation Grant Committee
Mr. Rob Crosswell, President and Mr. Galen Koller, General Manager Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Pottsville
Mystic Screen Printing & Embroidery
- Representative Dave Argall, 124th District - Locust Lake sailing point
Mrs. Nancy Hertz, Federal Coordinator for Minersville Area School District - grant monies
Mrs. Jetta Cooper, Project Secretary
- Mr. Dave Christie and Mr. Rob Stevens, Boat Builder Consultants
Minersville Area Student Boat Building Team
Leo Davidovich, Locust Lake Park Manager
Clyde Warner Jr., Waterways Conservation Officer
Kent Eisenhuth, Project Updates
Pictures of the construction